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Shout Out -- Costa Coffee Redhill

1 min read

COSTA COFFEE Since 1971.. did you know?

In Serbia, Cyndi and I got in a habit of going to coffee.  Lydia and Isaac both like it too.  That habit has continued to England.  However, we don't have nearly the choice of coffee shops in Redhill that we had in Cacak.  One of our favorites (or favourites) is the Costa in Redhill.

I wanted to give them a special shout out.  I think they went above and beyond yesterday.  Cyndi bought me a insulated mug from Costa for Christmas.  Well, after using it twice (and only hand-washing) it had a bed condensation problem between the outer and iner mugs.  So bad that the paper inside was wet and wrinkled.  I took it in, spoke to the manager, and asked her if I could get another.  She said that usually I would need the receipt; however, since I was a regular, she would just exchange it even up.

Thank you Costa Redhill for fixing my cup even though you didn't HAVE to.

Image from Kiran Raja Bahadur SRK via flickr

The Biggest Loser xBox 360 Game

2 min read

Biggest Looser Workout

Last January (Jan 2012), I had to return to the US for a couple of weeks for my grandpa's funeral--I can't believe I didn't blog about that.  While I was there, I bought several things to bring back.  One of those things was The Biggest Loser Ultimate Workout for xBox with Kinect.  I never opened it (and had forgotten about it until I was looking through where I had hidden the kid's and Cyndi's Christmas presents).  Today was my first time using it.

After some fiddly setup (be prepared for about 30 minutes of "stuff"), I was ready for my first workout.  However, before I could start, it did a short body analysis.  I entered my weight, the game had me face the Kinect, pause, then turn to the side, and pause.  I was ready to work out.

First off, I am way out of shape.  I knew I wasn't in the best shape; however, I didn't think I was this out of shape.  After all, I used to ride my bike thousands of miles a year (and had even done two centuries).  Wow.

On to the good:

  • The workouts are good.  My heart rate was up the entire 30 minutes
  • There's good customization.  I was able to tell it my weight goal, select a time-frame, enter how many times a week to work out, and choose my workout duration.
  • Having the kinect see the entire body allows the game to give you good feedback:  knees up, too wide, and that sort of thing
  • I liked the fact that it measured my waist, height, neck, etc... with nothing more than me removing my shirt.

Now for the bad:

  • When I laid on the ground, the kinect didn't track me so good.  Although, to be fair, I think this may be related to available space more and position more than anything
  • It didn't always track my movements right.  For example, in typical computer fashion, it told me to widen my lunge; however, when I widened it by more than an inch, it said too wide.  In some exercises, it is very "computer picky."

Now, this was only my first workout.  Overall, I think it went well.  I told it I wanted to do 4 per week.  I'll use it for this week then post a follow-up.

Isaac and his pushbike

1 min read

Isaac on his bike

For Christmas, we Isaac's grandpa and grandma got Isaac a pushbike.  2 reasons:  1) he outgrew his kid plastic push scooter thing and 2) we thought it would make an easier transition to a real bike.  He loves it, and he's getting good at it.  This picture is him coming down the "big hill" by our place.

Weightloss

1 min read

Scale-A-Week: 7 March 2010

While Cyndi and I were in the states 1.5 years ago, I gained a ton of weight.  Over the past year, I lossed that.  Before Christmas, I weighed 110 kg.  That is about 242lbs.  I want to be about 190-195 (call it 90-95kg).  The least I ever weighed while cycling was right around 205lbs.  Cyndi and I have a trip planned to Prague in April.  My goal is to be 10kg down by then...about 100kg.  I'll be keeping my fatsecret profile up to date with my weight.

Image from puuikibeach via flickr

Dance on the Wind by Terry C. Johnston (Scratch book 1)

2 min read

Dance On The Wind Terry C JohnstonCover

I just finished--well, before the Christmas break I finished--Dance on the Wind by Terry C. Johnson.  This is the first book in the nine book series following Titus "Scratch" Bass as he leaves home, heads west, and becomes a mountain man.

Dance begins with Bass at home working on the family farm.  He's got a girlfriend who he "courtin'."  But he is unsettled and yearns for more.  His thoughts often turn to his grandpa who came to Kentucky when it was still the frontier.  One day, after a shootin' match, he meets a man headed out west.  With freedom calling, Bass runs away from home one evening when he's 16.  He then meets up with a group of riverboatmen who take him to the other side of the "falls."  After they get through them, Bass asks to stay on and go to New Orleans with them.  This first book gets him to New Orleans and started back on the Nachez Trace.  Near St. Louis, he decides to go there.

In St. Louis, Bass gets a job as a blacksmith.  Towards the end of the book, he meets up with a real life mountain man.  After wasting all of Bass' savings, the mountain man dies.  Bass mopes until he finally decides to head west.  This book ends with him setting out to the mountains.

Yes, this book is fiction.  I doubt Bass was a real person.  However, Johnston's research of the time, area, and the "mountain man era" make "the Scratch books" a favorite with my family.  if you are at all interested in that time or the mountain men, start reading this series.

[Update 2013-02-02 15:18:01] Earlier this week, I started reading Buffalo Palace:  The Plainsman / Scratch book 2.  Once I'm done, I'll post my review of it.

[Update 2013-02-06 08:26:04] I've finished Buffalo Palace.  My review is here.

Dec 2012 -- Midlands Trip (Birmingham and Kenilworth Castle)

2 min read

2 days ago, Cyndi and I decided that we were tired of sitting home during the Christmas break.  We took a look at English Heritage places--as members, we don't have to pay an admission fee--and checked out Traveloge for cheap hotels.  We decided we'd visit Kenilworth Castle near Birmingham, England.

Here's one picture, click the read more link below to see more pictures and read more about our trip.

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The weather hasn't been great.  In fact, after starting off the summer under water restrictions, we recovered and this year is on track to be one of the wettest ever.  It started raining shortly before Christmas and has done nothing else since.

Yesterday, Friday, we left our home.  We ended up and sat in traffic for a good 1.5 hours on the M25 around London.  We went to Birmingham, England where we walked around.  Here's a few pictures of the lights in the central shopping area of the city:

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This morning, we woke up and went to the castle.  At one time, this castle was occupied by King John--the King John who signed the Magna Carta. Back in the day, he spent £1,100 (they said that was over £5 million today) to increase the security of the castle.  Later on, after the English Civil War, castles were slighted (partially destroyed) and Kenilworth was no exception.  That means this castle has set in ruins longer than the USA has existed.  Wow.  Here's a picture of a model of the grounds:

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 If you want to see more pictures of the castle, check out our Kenilworth Castle set on Flickr.

As we were leaving, we saw this really small el camino type car/truck in the car pack.  How small was it?  For scale, check out Isaac standing beside it!

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At A&E

1 min read

My finger-Christmas 2012

What a way to spend Christmas evening...at the a&e (that's what they call the emergency room in England).  Why am I here?

 Well Cyndi wanted a food processor.  I got her one.  Themetal blade was in this plastic case tthing.  What a stupid idea I said.  Well, as  was washing it I sliced my finger... quite nicely.  So Cyndi said I should come.

So...here I sit on Christmas eve waiting to be seen.

[Update 2012-12-25 21:53:37] It took about an hour to get seen.  And what did they do?  Put some tape on it and give me a sling.  A sling!  I wanted to ask how I was supposed to drive home.  On one hand, in the states, I would have wanted more for my $100 ER fee.  My first reaction is to say I'm glad I didn't pay.  Then, I remembered the OUTRAGEOUS amount of income taxes I paid here to provide this "free" healthcare.  I want more for my thousands!  Oh, I also added the picture.  Click it if you want to see it in more detail.

 

Christmas, Turkey, and More

1 min read

Carving a deep fried turkey

Here in England, it seems to be the tradition for churches to have a Christmas Day service.  Several families at church have started getting together for Christmas Dinner.  Well, Cyndi and I said we would deep fry a turkey if there was intrest.  Well, even though Lydia is sick, Isaac and I went because we had to cook the turkey.  Well, it was a hit.  Everyone liked it.  Isaac and I had an ok time because Cyndi and Lydia weren't there.

Image from henry alva via flickr

Website Changes

1 min read

1List icon (400x300)

As you can tell, I've made some changes to the website.  More will come over the Christmas break.

Here's my current TODO List:

  1. https enable the thing -- Done as of 21 Dec.  You can use https://www.maxsons.org to view the site now.  However, until I update all our flickr image links to use https you may get warnings about insecure content.
  2. get comments back -- done.  But comments don't work if you use https.  This is a problem with disquis.
  3. Update flickr images to use https -- Done 22 Dec
  4. disquis via https -- done
  5. Force https through redirect -- Done.  Only the https version of the site will work now.
  6. Verify rss feed -- Done as of 21 Dec.  RSS should still work
  7. update the look/feel a bit

[Update 21 Dec 2012 08:48] Crossed off completed items

[Uodate 21 Dec 2012 08:54] Added image.  From studioamanga via flickr

[Update 22 Dec 06:55] Crossed more items off

[Update 2012-12-25 03:49:01] To see why I did this (and how) have a look at my blog post on SSL.

[Update 2012-12-26 08:12:01I'm getting mixed content warnings.  I can't see what's wrong...can anyone help? Fixed

Deep Fried Turkey

1 min read

Probably about 10 years ago (perhaps 12), I got a turkey deep fryer for Christmas.  At the time, I didn't have a clue what I would do with it.  But, since that time, I've deep fried a zillion turkeys.  When we moved back to England, we put the deep fryer in the crate and brought with it.  At first, I was worried that I would have to get an adapter for the regulator; however, it turns out that POL connectors (the old style connector in the US) are the common connector here.  So, it plugged right in.

Yesterday, we had some friends over and we deep fried a turkey for them.  They liked it!  I thought it was a good first effort in 4 years (or more).  Anyway, here are some pictures I took of the turkey cooking:

Deep fry turkey 1Deep fry Turkey 2